Larry Graham Is Still Funky After All These Years


Larry Graham

By Gary A. Johnson,
Publisher, Black Men In America.com

The last time I saw Larry Graham and Graham Central Station I was in High School.  I saw him at the Capital Center in Landover, MD, just outside of Washington, D.C.  I went to the show tonight expecting Mr. Graham to be FUNKY, but not this FUNKY.  After all, he’s been around for over 40 years.  I figured he may have lost a step, or developed a hitch in his “funk-get-along.”

Talk about being wrong.  After last night’s show, 68-year old Larry Graham catapulted himself into my All Time Top 5 List of live performers.  Before seeing Larry Graham last night my top 5 best live performers were:

  1. James Brown
  2. Prince
  3. Earth, Wind & Fire
  4. The Jackson 5/Michael Jackson
  5. Brian Culbertson

After the Larry Graham experience last night, Brian Culbertson has been voted out of the Top 5 to the #6 slot with Larry Graham and Graham Central Station comfortably occupying the #5 slot.

Larry Graham

Last night the show started with the band coming on stage from the right wing.  The crowd was looking toward the stage chanting “Larry! Larry! Larry!”  The crowd erupted in applause as Larry Graham came from the rear of the building walking through the audience playing his bass guitar as he made his way to the stage.  Dressed in his signature all-white suit and a white hat topped off by a huge aqua blue feather, Graham also wore a floor length “Elvis-like” jacket.  By now everyone was on their feet (including me and I hate standing at concerts).  Graham walked by our table playing that bass guitar like the Pied Piper of Funk.

His band, Graham Central Station (GCS) has gone through a number of changes in membership.  The current GSC band are all young folks who grew up idolizing Graham.  The band also featured female vocalist Ashling Cole, who goes by the nickname “Biscuit.”  Ms. Cole has the daunting task of taking over the vocals made famous by original GCS member, Patrice “Chocolate” Banks.  I had my doubts if the young girl named “Biscuit” was up to the task.  She quickly sold me and the audience when she belted out the song, “I Can’t Stand the Rain.”  Biscuit, who says her musical influences were Teena Marie and Chaka Khan, also sang a Chaka Khan song to prove that she could do the “heavy lifting” vocally when asked.

After about an hour into the show Graham told the crowd:  “You better call the babysitter and tell them you will be home late.” Dude played for 3 hours!  Graham had 5 encores! (I guess he forgot that some of us had things to do the next morning).

Throughout the night Larry Graham and the band performed their 1975 anthem “The Jam” before taking fans back in time with “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again), and “Dance To The Music” from Graham’s Sly & The Family Stone days.  At one point the band exited the stage leaving Graham playing the thumb funk box, alone with the drummer.  In addition, the band played a medley of musical influences that included music by George Duke, Prince, Chaka Khan, Miles Davis, James Brown, The Originals and The Ohio Players.  If that wasn’t enough, Larry Graham allowed people from the audience to come on stage and showcase their talent by jamming with the band.  Can you imagine going on stage and saying: “I play bass,” and Larry Graham takes his bass off and gives it to you to play?

Everyone who came on stage had an opportunity to play their instrument of choice or sing and the band members stepped aside, gave up their instrument for you and let you jam with the band.  I almost ran on stage to sing Sly’s “If You Want Me To Stay.”  I would have turned The Birchmere out!

After the show, Graham, the band, and his wife Tina of 40 years, came out and signed autographs, took pictures and mingled with the crowd until well after midnight.  If you have a chance to re-live your youth, go see Larry Graham.  I was exhausted after the show.  I think I pulled a hamstring bouncing up and down to “1999” during the Prince medley of the show. It was that song or James Brown’s “I Got The Feeling.”

To learn more about Larry Graham visit his official website Larry Graham.comCheck out this classic video of Larry Graham with his buddy Prince.

Gary A. Johnson is the Founder & Publisher of Black Men In America.com a popular online magazine on the Internet and the Black Men In America.com Blog. Gary is also the author of the book “25 Things That Really Matter In Life.” 

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4 Responses to “Larry Graham Is Still Funky After All These Years”

  1. After reading your Larry Graham concert experience, all I can say is WOW! Can’t wait to see him live again!

  2. Walter Bowling Says:

    I agree on the mention top performers

  3. Sam Lomax Says:

    Saw him here about 3 or 4 years ago (even kicked ass then). But THIS was one of the better shows that I’ve ever seen! Was a SPECIAL treat for me when he let some audience members come up and play an instrument. I was the FIRST one allowed onstage to play lead guitar (for about 30 seconds) with “The Man”. If ANYONE has that recorded on their phones, contact me (seriously!!). I’m 57 years old now and can say that I was ONSTAGE with Larry Graham!!!

  4. Dear Bianca Mam,
    I have recently started going for keyboard classes in order to learn to play the electronic keyboard . I am from India and I am 45 years old. I am having difficulty playing the chords simultaneously along with melody. I keep pressing the wrong key. For example, instead of pressing G C E, I end up pressing A C E which is Am, I guess. Hope you can help me out in practicing the right way so that I am able to play correctly. Is there any exercise that helps us in playing chords correctly?

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